Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Howe-Childs Gate House

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Institution Name: Chatham University
Original/Historic Place Name: Willow Cottage
Location on Campus: Woodland Rd.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
ca. 1861original construction Unknown
ca. 1870sadditional floor added Unknown
2003adaptive reuse Landmarks Design Associates
2003renovation; exterior and interior Landmarks Design Associates Ellis, Schmidlapp
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: stone
Walls: wood (frame)
Roof: shingle
ca. 1861-1959private residence (Thomas Marshall Howe family: 1861-1947; Michael L. Benedum family: 1947-1959)
1959-1984residence hall ("Gateway House")
2003-present (2007)other (guest house)

Significance: architecture, history
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Constructed ca. 1861 and originally known as Willow Cottage, the Howe-Childs Gate House is the oldest wood frame house in Pittsburgh and the oldest existing house from the city's "Millionaire's Row." Built by Thomas Marshall Howe, a prominent Pittsburgh industrialist, bank president and former congresssman, the building was the entry to Grestone the family's "country" estate. Mary Howard Childs, the widowed daughter of the General, and her three children were the first known occupants of the house.

Former owners of the two and one-half story clapboard Gothic revival/cottage style house include members of the Howe and Childs families and also that of Pittsburgh oil magnate, Michael L. Benedum. In the 1950s the Benedum Foundation leased the house to Chatham College and in 1959 the foundation donated the house to the university for use as a residence hall and academic building. The university later sold the house in 1985. One year later the City of Pittsburgh designated the structure a Pittburgh Historic Landmark.

After nearly 15 years of deterioration, Chatham University reaquired the house and grounds in 2000 and without delay began to ensure its survival. To save the structure, the university immediately invested $2.2 million into the exterior and interior renovations and the renewalof the grounds. The college engaged Landmarks Design Associates and architect Ellis Schmidlapp to restore the exterior and closely approximate its original appearance, from the A. J. Downing color palette to the faux slate roofing (acutally recycled rubber tire shingles). Toxic-free paints donated by PPG were used in the interior spaces. The restored exterior has created a gracious entrance to the campus while the fully renovated interior includes a conference room and guest rooms for campus visitors.

The project has been supported by contributions from neighbors, frineds, alumnae and other individuals interested in historic preservation and Pittsburgh history, including the descendents of Thomas Marshall Howe. In addition, the college has received a Keystone Historic Preservation Grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. It also was designated an official project of the Save America's Treasures (2000), a public-private partnership between the White House Millennium Council and National Trust for Historic Preservation.

I. Bibliographic sources:

None specified.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library

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Last update: November 2006